The BET Experience has already had a major impact on the neighborhood. The J.W. Marriott and the nearby Luxe Hotel are booked for the weekend. BET has already sold most of its VIP packages, with the $1,995 "Platinum" and $3,995 "Diamond" packages already gone. The festival has attracted fans from 44 states, according to sales data from AXS, AEG's still relatively new ticketing site. And more than 60% of registrants to the free fan fest will be coming from outside the city, according to BET's database.
The BET Experience is only the second event of its scope to set up at L.A. Live, behind the X Games. Though the Los Angeles Convention Center and Expo Hall wasn't secured for the inaugural festival (there are plans to use it in future years), the adjacent surface lots can hold up to 10,000 attendees, and will likely attract as many given that it will be free and packed with exhibits, a Chris Brown dance-athon, celebrity basketball game, a truncated version of the Taste of Soul and free performances from buzzy acts like Mateo, Ab-Soul, Bridget Kelly and Austin Brown as part of the network's ongoing Music Matters initiative to break emerging artists.
"The festival shows BET giving more props to the art," said Brown, who will also have a small performance slot on the awards show. "Not just it being a festival for music and for black artists, it's all around showing that they are a cultured network and company. What's cool about it being BET is a lot of times black artists don't get a lot of the shots that other artists get. They are really stepping up their game and showing their place in culture."
Beyoncé will use her slot at the BET Experience to launch her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, but the other Staples Center shows are supervised by the network and Goldenvoice. Mueller said he hopes artists build their performance schedules around the festival, much like acts do with Coachella.
"I want the event to constantly evolve so if there are tours out there from artists like Beyoncé, who are just so popular, of course we want that," Mueller noted, "same way Coachella wants Radiohead or a huge core artist. There's always a place for that, but we also want to be able to curate it to a certain degree."
But how much of the BET Experience will viewers at home get to see? Not much, this year. Hill, who also serves as the network's president of music programming and specials, said they are still in discussions on how to build footage into programming to air later.
The network will, however, live stream some of the events including one of the seminars, the celebrity basketball game and a special episode of "106 & Park." Viewers tuning into the actual awards will get a brief glimpse of what they miss when R. Kelly closes the show from Staples Center before his concert.
As for those unavoidable comparisons to Essence, which sets up in New Orleans just a few days later — Beyoncé and New Edition are on both bills — BET isn't concerned.
"We recognized they are two very different targeted markets in different parts of the country," Lee said. "There aren't a lot of [urban-geared] festivals nationwide. They have their audience, and we are going to appeal to a different audience. I think the marketplace can support both."